Thursday, December 31, 2015

Blue on Black

I've had been sidelined until recently.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Fahrenheit, showed how athletic he could be, and cow kicked my upper thigh.

It wasn't his fault, he became scared over a noise and as young horses are, reacted. I was also at his shoulder, so for him to plant one solidly on my leg took some talent; I'm not only reminded of this from the lump but also from the increasing pile of dead bellboots from when he's having a '10' day.

It hasn't been my year for injuries. I went to keuring with a black eye, and I remember doing a few naughty things to myself in Germany. I'm a klutz of the first order for 2015.

So, I was temporarily sidelined with a sleeve of black and blue bruises and an Easter Egg sized lump. The lump has gone down, but for the first few weeks I was miserable.

I was cleared to ride again about two weeks after that, at the walk and the trot, I was still doing yoga and I went through the repetitive motions of lunging everyone as much as possible.

But honestly, when you're used to walking a half marathon everyday, five miles is boring. It wasn't until a week ago did I feel honestly comfortable enough to canter, and strong enough to really do good work.

As boring as my rides have been- they've been more productive and I've been able to address Flair's trot more and little habits.

Flair has been roughly under saddle for close to eight months.

She has vastly changed from the Alberta broodmare to a sport horse who keeps on developing day in and day out.

At first, we were just focused on getting through all the physicality that she had to process, and now, my main focus has been developing her carrying capacity and balance. It's a tricky line to walk with her. She gives as good as she gets. If she's feeling physically great, she gives you everything, if she feels less than stellar then you have to discuss things and keep her mentally fresh. 

This is a mare who finds all the upper level movements easy and without question, fun.  There's not a day that goes by that I don't feel that she will be a very competitive FEI horse, but apart of the entire lifestyle change that she underwent is keeping up and ahead of the physical upkeep, she's doing well.

Winter is going to be full of refining basics, which is a welcome relief versus gearing in for spring.

Fahrenheit continues to progress, he currently has nine rides under saddle and is solidly walk/trot/canter with a smidge of lateral work and lengthening. Outside the arena, he hacks. Alone.  He's a great combination of sensitive, forward but with a brain firmly between the ears. He's just a neat horse.

Sinari continues to work well for her AA rider. I'm really pleased with how this pairing has turned out. She spoils her more than I do. She's not fully accepting that she's not the FEI horse anymore but I think she's much more comfortable in her roll.

I'm ending my year at home, something I rarely do these days, as my current schedule is fairly booked. Something I didn't expect. But at the same time, it seems to be the theme of the year; not quite what I expected.

I ended up in Europe (subsequently I was invited back but had to defer this year due to obligations at home), I met amazing people, I developed riders to their first medals, coached riders to the FEI, sold horses world wide, I have two regular clinics in Ohio and in Virginia, I developed horses to the top 10 and number one spots for the KWPN NA, we took two green (and I mean out of the field unbroke) and won, a lot, with scores breaking in to the 80's. I started importing my own horses from my source in Germany, and my investors and partnerships continue to expand.

My team and I did it. We were on the books successful. 

But for every success there was a setback. There were untimely deaths, there were friends who contracted crappy diseases, there were accidents (both personal and from friends), political backbiting and unprofessional antics; some from the usual sources and many from unexpected sources, there were unexpected bills, there was heartbreak for both myself and friends, lots of proverbial slamming doors and lots of tears.

But like time, I and my team, kept going and will continue on.

2015 Goals:

1. Expand clients, horses in training and investments that are capable, at minimum, of shining on the national stage and continue to be fiscally solvent. 
Done and continuing. Haiku, Flair, Fahrenheit were wonderful additions to the 2015 herd. The herd is also set to temporarily grow again with two more training horses for winter. Still working on growing fiscally.

2. Continue to increase fitness (human and horse).
Done. My average walking distance (according to iPhone) is 10 miles. A day. I conservatively burn 1,500 calories from just walking. 

3. Pursue the young horse track. Develop horses for the USEF Young Horse Championships alongside the USDF Breeders Championships with the aim of looking toward Verden. 

Done in a big way. Flair is pursuing the Developing Horse track, we need more time. Fahrenheit is working towards the four year olds, and if someone doesn't buy him by the end of the four year old year, he will be my Verden bid. 

4. Dedicate personal educational opportunities once a quarter with my coaches (in a non-clinic capacity) to keep developing. 
Kinda done. My first quarter and my second quarters were booked with Germany. By third quarter, we were hitting our stride and four quarter was a flop.

2016 Goals:

1. Pursue young horse track. Get into the observation sessions. 
2. Continue to increase fitness (human and horse). 
3. Continue to sell and source horses world wide. 
4. Continue to create and dedicate personal educational opportunities once a quarter. 
5. Continue to develop Flair.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Nothing ever lasts even a cold November rain

It's taken me a while to write this post.

My Fall was already packed and going strong but around the end of October, things took a quick turn south and then proceeded to turn more south.

Between William's accident, scrambling unsuccessfully for Mary King to come over, coordinating Fahrenheit's delayed arrival and keeping Flair going I was overwhelmed and very much running on empty.

Then came the series of minor little incidents. The time switch and I lost hours of daylight alongside the reminder that I'm not heading South for winter, not being in control of my own schedule, odd bills showing up, some random theft, some untimely deaths and a few other situations that just knocked me off my flow. I felt like I lost ground and whatever momentum I gained from the summer.

All of it happened within a span of two weeks, whatever motivation I had pretty much went out the window. It wasn't anyone's fault.
Things are slowly returning to a proverbial normal thanks to going and teaching, gaining a few new sponsors, some new clients, and planning 2016. It's still a long way off of wherever I feel like I need to be, and somedays are still tough.
The horses are thankfully, going right along. 

Flair continues to develop with me. She's solidly riding five days with me and going out and doing sets as long as the footing remains consistent.

Her personality has really come out, she, like Sinari, is the queen bee of the barn, you know exactly where you stand with her. She's more sensitive than the pony- both in personality and in physical nature.

There are days that her gut bothers her (rapid weather change isn't helping), or that she doesn't feel quite up to the task. Sometimes her personality is easily offended, which is to be expected, but for the most part she likes to work.

She has found more of her gaits, but the canter remains a tad overwhelmingly powerful. She's also starting to turn heads. She is also still playing catch up. The idea is to keep her developing throughout 2016 with minimal show obligations, going back to keuring and maybe going out to the shows as an HC. 

Fahrenheit has begun work. He's everything I remembered when I first saw him, incredible rideable
personality and three good gaits.

He's gone from unbroke to lunging in a matter of a week without so much as a hitch.

I have a few thoughts for his schedule but until he's actively under tack I'm holding off anything. He's set up to be backed next weekend by my usual guy. It was supposed to be this weekend, but I was feeling not so prudent about starting a horse in 30mph winds and a 30 degree temperature drop.

His focus is on the next 90 or so days, and developing condition to do the work for 2016. 

Joining the herd in the next few weeks are two more mares in for winter training (and one for sale). I'm really pleased to see the quality grow.

Europe has also been on my mind lately.

Not just for the attacks in Paris and abroad but the big question on everyone's mind is if I'll go back for an extended stay.

The short answer is no.

With horses actively developing under tack, coming in to ride, the most I can get away with is two weeks. So I'm trying to condense four countries, all the shopping, looking at horses, awards, and business meetings within those 14 days.

Overall, I'm already looking forward to spring. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Orange is the new blue

With the overall KWPN - NA keuring tour over, and back from break/vacation. I feel more confident about recapping things.

Keuring was probably one of the most stressed out times I've been through.

This was our end of year hurrah and it was the first time I felt like the program was being seriously evaluated with what we training for and choosing horses out of the fields. I love choosing the raw horses, but sometimes it's hit or miss.

This was an important time in each mare's life and would add street credit to not only their future as broodmares, but to the overall concept of the program that we're doing.

Keep in mind, Haiku is only three years old with less than a year under saddle going against horses that are more mature, and Flair, while five, only had less than 90 rides at that point. 

There was heavy amounts of Tums being passed around, possibly some mimosas.

Combine this with a spike from cooler (we were training with 70 degree weather) to hot (keuring day was 90 degrees). I was really worried about horses becoming flat, tired and dehydrated.

Needless to say, things worked out.

Flair made Ster and PROK; with complements on her topline and overall suppleness. The juries asked that she be represented next year for her Keur and Elite since she will be more developed then. Overall she ended up in the top 10 of the North American tour. I couldn't be more pleased with the development at that keuring and her continued development.

In the end it was Haiku's day- earning 80.5 percent for the under saddle work, 80.4 for the DG Bar Cup, 75 for conformation; making Keur. The compliments and comments were too many to really go over. A huge accomplishment considering she is only three. Her PROK status is still in the air due to KWPN head office but it should be resolved out within this month.

Overall she ended up taking home Mature Dressage Horse at the site. Then going on to win the DG Bar Cup for Three Year Olds, is the top three year old in the North American Keuring and was fourth overall for the IBOP against mature horses with very established farms.

I'm thrilled and excited for her to finish out her three year old year on top, and undefeated. I'm even more thrilled for the recognition for the program that I developed with horses taken from point zero. I'm really looking forward to going out in 2016 and doing something special again. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Keep you like an oath

I'm a deadline driven person.
I blame getting my degrees and then learning to organize. I like punctual, I like routine and I like familiar. It's comforting and gives a sense of control, even when I don't have any. Minus my personal life which never runs on time, my professional life is more orderly.

A few months ago, I entered into a partnership with Germany for a horse. With two other partnerships (Haiku, Flair) on the table and going successfully- it was a giant step in a direction.

I'm thirty-something years old, two years into my training business and I've started developing a larger network in Europe for career horses this year. I successfully sell everywhere (this year alone was fun to see how many places the horses I've touched have gone to).

Where and who I source from is very important to me because the clients are often buying sight unseen often on my reputation and while there are many great breeders out there in the the world, very few I feel can match the quality and ethics of the people who I personally have relationships with.

When I left Germany, I left my partnered-horse-of-choice behind to spend the summer growing up; as for the rest of us, we've been working our butts off, actively campaigning and developing.

He needed the extra time to develop more and I needed space to focus in on the mares. So there he went out in to the fields like the rest of the chuckle heads in his age group.

The plan was always to export him into America in the Fall as a longer-term sales horse (focusing in on the four year olds for 2016).

Somewhere between April and now, I lost track of time. 

It was easy to forget about him, he's just 2,000 miles away and the only real images I have of him are a photo on my mobile, and a video on my YouTube account. Like an arranged marriage, every once in awhile I'd pull out the cute photo or watch the video on a few loops to figure out what exactly I agreed to. Every time I understood, and every time I question my sanity.

But with the 90 degree heat, the current workload, the foliage still kicking it's Summer hue, Fall, until today was a distant thought.

So came the call from Germany a few weeks ago that basically was my alarm- it's time, the boxes are needed for other incoming horses and I need to begin focusing on developing another horse with Flair and Haiku safely cooking along. It was time for him to fly over.

Thus began the importation for October, one of the busiest seasons for any quarantine station let alone Kentucky. I'm excited in a lot of ways and holding my breath in many others. I was lucky to see him go for 60 days in Germany but for the last 180, I only have him in his winter coat still rough looking from the field.

But like pulling any young horse from the field, things change rapidly with work, maturation and nutrition- and like the girls I know he won't disappoint me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lean On

The last few weeks have been the stretch run of summer. It's the quiet lull of the routine between shows, clinics and events that make the days drone on. Every day is a little like Groundhogs Day. I live in the same twenty meter space or out in the same wide open field.  Every day, the same, but a little different.

Mostly the weather hasn't cooperated in our favor. It's rained about 3/4's of the summer, and when it hasn't rained the fields have become utter slop.

Thankfully, the season is over half way done. 

Still on the girls' docket is KWPN Keuring, Devon and maybe Tryon YHS if the calendar leans toward it and if we feel like traveling out again.

The KWPN Keuring has been the first priority in the books.

Both mares are putting the finishing touches on the IBOP test and working in hand. There are some other minor details to take care of but, those can only be taken care of over time or at last minute. The difficulty of Keuring isn't it's just a one and done deal, and if you flop it there's very little chance of a good re-do. It's a lifetime impression. So I'm pretty bent on creating this solid impression for both horses.

Despite my worries for the Keuring, I'm so thoroughly happy with how both girls have developed this year. It positions us really well for for 2016, and focusing us on the young horse things. 

Flair has begun the transition to becoming my main horse. I'm having a blast just starting up with her. Most of the rides have been comprised of just stretching over the topline and getting used to her gaits which aren't together yet. Like every green horse, they loose balance, speed up, slow down or become disconnected over the back. She's no exception.  I enjoy her work ethic, which is outstanding, she gives you 110 percent every time out. 

Haiku has gone through growth spurt after growth spurt. With the Keuring approaching I just have to put blinders on somedays and hope that she doesn't look downhill and like a mule. In her growth, she's put on a full hand and at least 100lbs of topline in the hind end. Her weight looks great. I wish she would gain some width in the chest, but I think that will be given with time.

Still I know I'm being picky, for a three year old she's very much ahead of her group. I'm lucky to get to view other US based three year olds frequently, many of which aren't started or in any shape to be started.

Over the past weekend we went out and trained with Elly Schobel, who came by to teach over two days. Elly, aside from being a good friend,  is an excellent teacher with a very straightforward approach that is rooted in producing good basics. She's very good with not just with the mature horses, but has a really solid view of what young horses are. Plus we jive well.

Having a fresh on the mares was really important to me- simply because I see the same horses day in and out and sometimes the training becomes plateaued or I'm getting stuck in an approach. Despite having the August 30 outing on our calendar, Elly encouraged us to keep focusing in on the smaller details while focusing in on the larger picture at hand. Even in the arena, I forgot that we could change things up with different little gymnastic exercises to focus in on making the bodies more reactive.

Overall, things are cooking and in spite of my personal opinion things are progressing once again. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tough skin, Elastic Heart

Bringing out young horses is always an adventure, and much like Forrest Gump's saying, it's much like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.

Flair has been off the property in an unofficial capacity a few times. She gone to the local parks, went and did opportunity classes at the little show venue, and even has done materiale over at Spy Coast.  For the most part, she's done very well.  Not everyone can say with 30 or so rides that they have a fairly straightforward horse that goes places and scores decently.

I can confidently say, we do.

Sometime around June I felt it was necessary to take her out to her first recognized show to start giving her an official record. I'm always nervous about this because developmentally, she's still on a huge learning curve and not every place is a good place to take a horse like this out.

Venues are really important to me, and I'm known for being particular about where/how I show up.

The Virginia Horse Park isn't too far off from the Kentucky Horse Park in the way of atmosphere- it's large, with active arenas. But unlike Kentucky, it's fairly quiet and the riders who ride there are mostly professionals bringing out their kids or gaining scores for Devon or Young Horse Championships. It runs an active breed show alongside it. The footing is decent and the management does a great job hosting and running the event itself.

It was an ideal match and I wasn't disappointed with the results.

Flair, through torrential rain, deep footing, wind, kamikaze pony riders,  twirling umbrellas of doom and arena switches was unfazed and managed to pull out a solid score at Training one, ending third in a class of 12 experienced horses.

It was good to be back after a hiatus. It was good to see familiar faces and be in the fold again and I'm looking forward to eventually getting back myself.

Back at home the focus has shifted to the Keuring in August. I love inspection and there's a certain amount of pride this year going in. 

First is that Haiku is peaking just right for this. She's fit, and cooking right along in training. She's now regularly going off property, and is doing regular work. 

Flair with now about 45 or so rides is developing her gaits while maintaining her usual rideability. Over the next few weeks, the IBOP test is our biggest focus. Making it smooth and rideable without loosing the quality of the paces. 

Between rounds with Flair, I've begun to take back the ride. I finally got tired of sitting on the sidelines and so we have begun transitioning her over to me. She now rides five to six days per week. Three days is spent on new concept, three days are spent just stretching and the final day is either a lunge or hack day. 

Either way, we're over halfway through season, with one, maybe two more shows left in addition to keuring.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The show must go on

I, like most competitive people in this sport, show my and my clients' horses on a frequent basis. It means like everyone else I have to scrape money together to get five minutes in front of a judge to get scores for what goal du jour I have that year.

It's tough but it's apart of the job.

It's a tentative, balanced relationship between organizers, who put on recognized events in a waffley economy and with a scattered population, and the people who show and expect things like nice ribbons, low entry fees and reasonable scores. 

Recently, Region 2 lost a local show venue. It was a small Regional Qualifier show with just two arenas that ran a total of three weekends a year - six shows total.

I competed at this little venue on again and off again. I've taken my horses also to school there occasionally. It's not bad, but it's not the best. The footing was average, the stabling was alright, the warm up in one of the arenas was sketch city, and the secretary wasn't exactly all there somedays. You go there when you need a last minute score or just need to get a green horse out there for miles. It's quiet and it's about 20 minutes from my farm. It's not my favorite, nor is it my least favorite, it's just average and served a purpose.

Over the years, the organizers have poured countless hours, dollars and ideas into the show series. It's endured for better or worse, secretarial changes, horrible weather, and a few other items only to really see an overall decrease in population with rising costs. 

In other words, the ROI sucked and it became the white elephant. It had to go. With the show gone it leaves one host and venue in the state to dominate the area. Kentucky showing for dressage, and some parts of eventing has become a monoculture.

Not soon after Eventing Connect put out a piece on organizers not stepping up enough to do for competitors.

The timing between the closing and the article struck a small nerve for a variety of reasons, but mostly it's serving as a personal wake up call as an organizer that the business has irrevocably changed. 
I've been on both sides of the fence, as competitor and organizer. I frequently organize large-scale clinics, and I've been apart of show management before (both local and international). I respect that hard decision to cancel or not host. It sucks. However, if it's a choice between fiscal solvency and being a community player, I choose the money.  Every time. 

Because I run large-scale clinics, I'm privy to the numbers and to people's wishes. I'm literately a one man band when it comes to running things.
It's a point of huge pride for me to be able to give twenty something people at my largest clinic a goody bag of stuff (valued by the way at: $300-$500 per bag), an even larger point of pride that people; riders, sponsors, staff, facilities come back and invest their dollars into my program, business and trust the quality people I bring in.
But at the end of the day, this is a business. I need to earn a living, and at minimum break even, and I'm not shy about saying I need to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.   

If you run the numbers, at minimum to host a recognized show is $8,000 (for reference: large scale international clinics you're looking at closer to $10-20,000, for schooling you're looking at $3,000).

That's $8,000 before a single competitor (or sponsor) steps foot on property. That's your licensing, officials, travel, accommodations, food, prizes, advertising, et all., that an organizer is taking the liability on.

It's a huge gamble to take responsibility of that checkbook.

It takes at minimum, a three month lead up time, and an average of 60-100 hours to pull off a recognized event. Again, before the event ever goes off. That time, an organizer will most likely never see a penny for those hours, or if they do, they make the child labor in India look rather well-off. 

So to break even at a show, at $35 a ride (going price in Kentucky for Intro - 4th level), you need roughly 115 rides over two days (at worse case scenario assuming everyone just does two rides over the two days and no FEI rides). 

This cost and volume has also lead to an increase in schooling shows and the USDF Opportunity Classes, which show a stronger ROI and lower base costs associated with hosting. 

This forfeiture of the dates, alongside of the outrage of "why isn't my show organizer doing more and giving me more free stuff?!" has caused a big community outcry.

Which really makes me wonder, if the show and it's venue was that important- why wasn't there more done on the competitor side to assure the success and helping underwrite the costs of doing business?

Do you want free things in your packet, better ribbons, prizes, et all? Then volunteer to sign on sponsors. A lot of them. Or donate your own money, goods and services to buy the ribbons.

Do you want to help lower show entry fees? Volunteer for any position with management, not just the during show operations. 

You want a friendly, non-stressed out staff? Become apart of it. 

You want more regional/national qualifiers? Organize.

The answer is, and always was if you want the show venue to continue, if you want the organizers to keep organizing, support them. Not with words but with actions. We know we will never be millionaires and a thank you, alongside an appreciative crowd that pays its bills on time, goes a long way to keeping the population in ribbons and scores.

Show business is a business, and businesses aren't run off of wishes, they're run off of numbers and facts. If you want to support the economy of showing, clinics or any event then become an active part of that economy and put your wallet where your wishes are before they become relics of nostalgia.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

On the road again

For the last two years, my summers have been relatively quiet.

Yes, we did travel a little bit, taking trail rides and going to clinics; but for the most part my herd and myself were homebodies.

It was for a variety of reasons. Sinari needed to then concentrate on the GP work, Danzador needed to grow up (or get over cellulitus) and the dynamic duo of Flair and Haiku weren't around yet. The homefires were strong and the trailer was regulated to it's parking place at the house.

The homefires are put out and we're already off to a running start for the summer season. The season is steadily going forward with the girls working about six days a week, and trying to keep the appointments on schedule.

The trailer this year has barely been unpacked and remains a consistent fixture on my hitch some weeks. Good, bad and otherwise, I've missed the travel. 

Flair, for now, going out more frequently than Haiku, who had some unintended time off due to rolling in an ant pile. Both girls are again steadily progressing within the work. It's amazing how far they've come.

I know I'm bias, but Haiku is just flat out pretty and exceptionally mature looking for the age. I was so lucky to have found her and receive the backing to bring her along. While I'm itching for a four year old bid with her, I know that she will probably sell by the end of this year.

Flair who has been nothing but a joy to bring along, is more of a power ballad than anything else. She's my cup of tea. She has about thirty or so rides under tack and already has a steady balance point with a very powerful canter. Sometimes she just doesn't know where to put everything, but at the same time, she comes out and works 110 percent everyday.

The focus for both mares really has been the materiale and to see if we could make them land in the year end standings, and then later in August, the IBOP at the KWPN keuring tour in Indiana. We have been focusing on the tests, and ultimately it's where we will most likely end up this fall.

This July we're heading out of state to do one of my favorite dressage shows- Dressage At Lexington (just Flair, Haiku is staying home). I missed this show for the last two years for a variety of reasons. But namely just didn't have a horse peaking at the right time to send over.

Because of the required three scores, from three different judges from three different shows the goal to land in the year end awards is a tricky one.

The problem that we're facing with the materiale is that the majority of shows do not have it, or if they do have it, it's not being judged by sport horse breeding judges, which leaves us with some weird feedback or the class being judged more as a dressage test. So that leaves us scrambling for the scores on a local level (more oddly the new local USDF BC qualifying breed show doesn't have a materiale?) and spending more miles on the road.

Flair's schedule is Dressage at Lexington, Dressage at Devon and one more TBD show (either Virginia or Ohio). Haiku's is tentatively Devon, and then probably the Ohio shows. We are invited to the Spy Coast Championships (non rated), and most likely will qualify for the USDF BC in the Midwest. But doubt that we will attend simply because of the timing of the clinics I host and that I feel that we need to reserve the horses for Winter.   

If this was five years ago, there wouldn't be so much travel. But the economy and several other factors have really done away with the shows.

Breed shows, no pun intended, are a dying breed. They're expensive boutique shows that are highly contingent on economics, how good the organizer is, timing and how liquid/available the young horse market is. 

The other problem we're facing is time.

The normal season runs from October to September. Which, if you have an older horse doing tests isn't bad. You have plenty time to gain your necessary scores and qualifiers.

However the focus with the young horses, it becomes tricky because of the some of the age requirements (you have to be 36 months to be allowed in the materiale-- which leaves the the population starting to show in May/June/July), and the majority of the breed shows are either late summer (read: very hot, very flat horses) or fall (cutting it close to the deadline).

If your focus is the Young Horse Championships, like what ours will be come next year, qualifiers run from January to July, due to World Young Horse Championships. You also have to declare no later than April and then guard your average and hope that you make it to the top ten or get shipped out.

Combine with lets say, having a bad winter, inevitable growth spurts, real life items on your to-do list, getting training so you have guidance in development and your season gets pushed back or shifted around.

Despite all of this my group continues to push on and we'll see where we all end up. 

Living like we're renegades

May and now most of June was just completely non-stop with sales, lessons, clinic planning, personal items and shows.  I may have gotten a day off, but I couldn't really tell you otherwise.

I finally got back to my desk in May and put together Ulf Moeller's details and sent out. I adore this clinic because it focuses exclusively on young and developing horses. It's also held at one of my favorite facilities, High Point Hanoverian in Maryland. Ulf, who is popular as a teacher is such an asset to have in the program, and finally I have a few horses to go in the arena with him. I also have a lovely local clinic with Elly Schobel on the books who I'm looking forward to hopefully having out regularly as well.

Both mares are excelling. It's so nice to be back in my regular grind. It feel different this year with the majority of my barn being under five, it's a low key situation that allows for breathing room to keep things light but progressive.

Haiku looks just wonderful. Even through young horse moments, she's proving to be mature, capable and very level headed. Which is unusual for the breeding between Jazz and Ferro. The mare is such a good egg. She rides three to four days a week currently and another lunges two to three. She's also had some time off from time to time to keep her mentaly fresh. Physically she's very fit for the age, and beyond what we're doing currently there isn't much we can do.

So it's just a focusing on how good we can make the basics. With Haiku it's easy to fall in love with her gaits. For a three year old, she's developed easy 8 gaits all the way. Her next outing is in August, a schooling show, a clinic and the IBOP, with schooling outings in July. I wanted June to focus on development.

But, while we're in it to do well in the young horse classes, the real goal for her, no matter with who she ends up, is the Grand Prix.

For now, we focus on the tedious details that will pay off in about eight years.

It's hard to think down the pike when your focusing on somedays getting through an awkward growth spurt.

It's days spent on the ground stretching or doing things under tack that just mind little details, like how straight we can make her on non-supported lines, how clean those transitions can get or how square the halt can be or can she really follow the connection where ever we put it. Strength comes from the details- and with young horses it's all about making the details fun.

Flair is skipping right along.

Under saddle she's powerful and does whatever you want her to do, no matter how green.  For a mare that has had about 30 rides at this point, she's incredibly straightforward. She picked up changes (really accidentally) easily, and is schooling good lateral work. She's been off property a handful of times now, most recently to Meadow Lake and  Masterson Station to go school in the arenas some of the cross country, go see the dressage arenas, start thinking about tests and go for a walk.

Flair is on a similar schedule as Haiku, three days of riding and three days of lunging, which has been upped from her bare-bones winter schedule, and she's blossomed for it. 

 It's easy to forget that while physically she's older, but in reality she has less rides collectively than her three-year-old counterpart. The focus really has been to get her up to speed for the age group while developing strength. Her focus and capacity for work is huge, but because of the heat, and lack of strength she tires out. So we're especially careful not to burn out and create negative experiences. 

 We know this year is out for the FEI five year olds, so the focus is the six with a large late summer and fall schedule.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Only looking up when my head’s down

We've been on the struggle bus since coming back from the show.

My horse trailer looks like it's had a bomb set off in it. I have laundry up to my eyeballs, my tack wasn't cleaned until Monday, I still have hay in the back of my truck, and a stack of emails and paperwork I've been ignoring (sorry) since last week. I was also not the smartest scheduler- I did 8am lessons the day after, and then had an 8am farrier appointment the day after that. Tuesday was the first day I "slept in" until 7am and then promptly went to yoga.

I also found out that my supplies from the trailer need to be replenished. I normally carry two of everything around in that trailer simply because I don't like packing and repacking. Over the year I used up things or repacked them elsewhere. The inconvenience of trying to find extra treats, the spool of wax thread or my cleaning supplies during a show just kind of added into the small chaos.

I also will happily pay that price again if it means I could have every weekend as well-done as that one.

The quality of the show was really high, with several people trucking above five hours in, and the horses reflected the investment of the time spent putting them on a truck and bringing them down.  

Haiku pulled out an early monster score of 8.64 for her first show for the three year old materiale with the highlight being 8.5 for rideability. Her in hand class was also highly competitive, and was overall second, despite being flat from working earlier in the day, she came away with an 8.7, second out of 15 horses and a fanbase.

Flair followed suit, pulling a 7.6 - a huge positive considering the show was her 15th ride under saddle, and was behind the winner of the class by two points. Her canter work was the high point- 8.5.

The judge was kind enough to take me aside and not only give the mares huge complements on their breeding, training and manners but also give some ideas towards development. This was a lot of personal validation of what I've been doing over the last months from a very respected source. 

What's even more impressive is that both mares were exceptionally professional about the job. Yes, they had green moments, but went in with no lunging, or calming supplements in their systems. They went in and knew what they were supposed to do. The cherry is that they are both qualified for the finals in November at Tryon and depending on how that weekend will run, we might just attend. 

Which leads me to the next show schedule. It's very tempting to throw them in again and just keep pushing for year end awards.

My focus on Haiku is more or less just one more show, at training level, before going to IBOP and quitting for the year. To me the three year old year is a learning curve. Yes, they need a record. Yes, they need to do stuff, but they don't need to be trucked from here and beyond to show extensively and potentially develop a bad reputation. Haiku has already answered a lot of questions for us, and continues to mature beautifully. 

With Flair it's get her into the regular tests as quick as possible. She can do training level tomorrow if we asked but I would like to see more condition from her at first. I also don't necessarily want to put the investment toward the lower levels, a mistake I made with Sinari. My focus for her is in honesty, next year for the six year olds. So we're focusing on Virginia to get some miles under her belt with me in the irons. Dressage at Lexington is on her radar because of the nature of the show and my clients who go.

So the focus is really on the fall and winter seasons, with the eye towards Dressage at Devon, IBOP and other fun items. But for now I think we have all the right pieces in the right ways. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Getting back to the grind has been going well, minus one or two weeks where life was interrupted by Rolex and Kentucky Derby, everyone has been getting back into a more committed schedule.

It's finally nice to have everyone in a singular place again. Steeple Pointe Stables did a great job keeping everyone in order, and my student did a nice job hacking and keeping some order in the face of horrid weather and random schedules; but in all honesty there's no place like home.

Having everyone home also means being able to focus on the immediate of re-establishing a full six day week, and attending to the details. Needless to say my trailer got ripped through and the unpacking, rearranging and organizing is still continuing. My truck looks like it exploded with blankets, wraps and stuff everywhere. I spent the majority of Thursday just cleaning both of them out and giving the truck and trailer a solid wash.

Adding to the stress was someone stole my purse, the entire thing, out of my truck last Saturday. The purse I don't mind so much- it was just a canvas one. But the contents were a tad bit more important. All my ID's, major cards, license, passport, and alot of memories are now just gone. The week prior my accounts were flagged for fraud, so if there's any silver lining to any of this its that I at least have one debit card that escaped, and I don't have to wait around another five days. Compounding the issue is my only final form of ID was in NJ. It's disappointing and ultra frustrating that I now have to deal with four notoriously slow government agencies (DMV, Passport Control, and Social Security office) and their paperwork.

If there's anything to look forward to this upcoming weekend, it's showing. I've been wanting to show Spy Coast now for years. It's a fabulous show with excellent footing and drop dead gorgeous facilities. However bad timing on my end or having a horse that's not in the right age group or going through a weird growth spurt really stifled those chances.

The girls look the part, the weekend is free and so I dropped the entry in.

Haiku is especially ready to do something. A full hand bigger and mentally ready enough to step out, she needs to stretch out and get some miles without getting permanent ink on her records. She's stellar, and very fit for the age group but still hasn't filled out width-wise quite yet. She's business like about her work, she's handled change very well. The goals are pretty much to just have a solid first show, and to hit in the 7's-8's consistently. 

Flair looks equally as good. She's not as fit, as she's started three months after Haiku, but needs to just go out and start thinking about larger concepts. I really don't care about scores, I just want her to go out and have a positive experience.

It's easy to look at Flair and go she's ready to do something more. She can easily go zero to FEI in her balance points, she's easy on the eyes, offers things up and is exceptionally trainable. She's very mature in her looks. But as fast as she's developing and giving, you can't put topline on overnight.

But Flair has been getting the baptism by fire the last three months.

Her entire world has been flipped, reversed and changed. She's in a program, she's worked, she's getting fitter, she's handled every day, twice a day. Every day she looks better because it is an aggressive, everything including the kitchen sink program, that addresses a lot of different things. I think some part of her goes, I'd rather be barefoot and pregnant, and the other goes this is rather neat. She's got the best temperament, goes out and tries, doesn't make the same mistake twice. She's straightforward, but green, but lacks the carrying power to sit under saddle correctly to do anything beyond what a three or four year old is required to do. She's not ready for a test, she's not ready for anything but straight materiale, but needs to go out and learn what being a show horse is without the world judging her. 

So, Spy Coast is really an ideal place for both of them. They've done an excellent job developing something for all young horses in a quality environment. The series has a number of things going for it- like prize money, inclusive handler fees, great judges and year end series championships. They understand babies are going to be babies, and allow them to act that way accordingly. There will be plenty of other opportunities to get them to the larger rated shows, but for now, they need to stay in the kiddie pool.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My type

I was raised with the idea and notion that European horses were superior sport horses, and that the baseline quality was, and still is to some extent, much higher than that in the US.

How could I not? I was raised with the ISF adverts and being around people who purposely bred with those lines, and constantly imported ones who were added into the genetic and talent pools.

While I will dispute some of that notion (there are a number of North American breeders who in my opinion are out producing Europe- including the one I work for [see SunShine Meadows]), after visiting Holland and starting to develop in Germany, I think for the most part it's accurate.

There's no question that the US has a lot of the same lines within its borders as breeding technology advanced (frozen semen, embryo transfers) and we've come a long way since a lot of the first horses were inspected and approved within our boarders. But still there is a decisive lack of knowledge among riders about pedigree and we may have the sire lines, in general we lack quality broodmares to support those sires.

Compounding things is the idea of breeding itself. It's the idea of breeding is generational versus immediate results. The former instead of the latter is the core philosophy with the people who I was around. They aim for sensational, but at the same time, they have to put the sensational back into the breeding pool to reproduce itself for future generations.

There's also very little sentiment in breeding in Europe, yes, they do have favorite mares and stallions, but it's a practical application on limited resources. You will not find many, if any, Cinderella crosses competing successfully.

In short, pedigree matters, and in Europe it's a very large part of the sport.

To the riders, it's more than a pink piece of paper, its the basic roadmap where quality develops and gives a timeline of how horses develop, it helps price horses accordingly at their raw state, make black and white decisions, and decisions on who gets to reproduce or go to approvals.

There are nicks, lines that cross consistently well, to produce above average and there's a wild amount of access and support to develop horses from in utero to under saddle. It's also hugely political in many ways with the influence of the foal market and who is stamped as a breeder on the papers.

Europe is special in a few ways as well. There's the population, where you can see 50-75 of a stallion's offspring within a few hours' drive, in many stages of development (everything from just born to some cases international horses), there's government sponsored breeding stations (Celle),  there's shows, exhibitions and things to do with your young horse, in addition to coming to know stallions that aren't popular or even represented within the American market (Don Index, Detroit, Destano, Saleri, Sarkozy, United, etc) and how they, and they're offspring have developed.

You don't have a huge frozen market (it's expensive to develop the facilities to freeze), instead there's a lot of fresh-chilled which can be more consistent than frozen and more widely on-demand.

But for the most part, there are a few principle dressage lines within both the Dutch and German books, with repetitive nicks that have produced very consistently over the generations.

While the two countries have developed differently the end goal is always the same, produce good horses for top sport. The irony of it is while they are both very competitive with each other, because of how each of the books have developed, they need each other for outcrossing purposes, which is seeing another generation of sport horses that are realizing the best of everything.

Until recently, my barn has mostly been KWPN. Partially because I work for a breeder, but the other part is I love dutch horses. To me they're very consistent and taking the sport to a different level. The book is very forward thinking, which is sometimes good and bad.

My background with German horses has been the American representation, which I haven't found too appealing for the end goals I want. Are they pretty?, Yes. Are they nice to be around? Sure. They're great horses in their own right. It wasn't until I went to Germany and was in a barn and with a breeder who has that same ideas, did I end up finding the horses I want, and even then, the barn was the exception rather than the rule.

In the Dutch books, the focus has always been on progressive gaits, and more recently adding good rideability. The four stand outs are Jazz, Flemmigh, Oscar, and more recently Ferro. Ferro and Oscar (who bred Uphill) are known for hind ends, producing piaffe/passage/pirouettes, and Jazz, and the Flemmigh offspring are known for front ends. Flemmigh is especially known for temperament.  You see them all crossed very consistently for the upper levels. They're not necessarily horses for the young horse classes or amateurs, but they do have good batting averages for the Grand Prix.

In the German books (Hanoverian, Oldenburg, Westphalian, Holstein, Rhineland), its more about tradition and regionalism. Each book has their own aims and goals, but the overall effect is producing horses for the top level that pretty much anyone can be around. The idea of German breeding is traditionally towards German farmers, versus the Dutch book where it was really the first book to focus in on the FEI sports.

German horses, in general, were bred for every person. A horse in Germany has to be sound, rideable or workable by your average rider, but still have the ability to do the sport at a very competitive level. It really wasn't until nearly two decades ago, did the focus change from producing for everyone to producing specifically for sport. The idea of sticking to tradition, has caused some degradation in the books for dressage, but for jumping, the Holstieners and Hanoverian are still exceptional.

In the Hanoverian and Oldenburg books (what I'm based out of) there's the A (E), F, D, G, R, S and W, lines. You see Donnerhall, Sandro Hit, Rubinstein, and Fidertanz, Weltmeyer, Laurie's Crusador (thoroughbred) very frequently crossed for the sport. Of the lines represented today, the modern D, F, R, S with a background of A (E) is most prevalent with hints of W hanging back.

Donnerhall, and secondly Fidertanz and Rubinstein, is especially represented in a lot of modern pedigrees, with the majority of German horses carrying him at least once or twice within their papers and crossed on everything. Donnerhall, like Ferro, produces hind ends, but he also produces really wonderful temperaments, walks and canters.The F and the R lines lighten them up without loosing the temperament behind the horse.

The last ten or so years both Holland and Germany have been outcrossing more to introduce more blood and variety into the pedigrees. This has been done with varying amounts of success, and it's a trend that I think that will continue on, especially for stallions and mares who don't meet criteria in one book and can in another.  

In the end, the lines and the use of the lines are personal as well as performance based, there's history, and effort to get the horse that you sit on to you. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Feels like home again

I made it home Monday after three flights. The highlight of it was being stuck in Atlanta for a few extra hours and getting to roam around trying to find a good milkshake (no dice) and my new Timbuk2 bag's wheels getting knocked off by Delta (jerks).

I was technically scheduled for more travel this week to Vegas World Cup.  I've had numerous people ask me to go, and while I initially committed to going for another business, I'm happy the obligation was canceled. There's so much that needs to be done, and things that I've been ignoring- such as the clinics, need to be dealt with. So I'm home for at least a month before I adventure out again.

Being home is strange after being away for so long. In one way the familiar comfort of my house and everyone with it is lovely, on the other hand, the mentality I got into while in Europe is something that I don't want to give up, it just simply doesn't exist prevalently in the States on a consistent level.

So, my heart is now on two continents. I find myself in the old routine from Germany, and for the moment, less population.

The competition season is just starting here, and I'm eager to really to start it. I have my first entries printed off and ready to go out this weekend, hopefully the US postal system won't repeat their mistakes last year.

Despite my absence from the show arena several of my sales graduates have already started competing. Reba's Song MF (Rotspon) is back in action after an extended period off due to rider injury, she was out competing at Novice and was once again in the sub-30's for dressage, Sincere G (Savant) has been out on the jumpers with Emily Williams in Ohio as well, producing solid rounds with minimal mistakes and Danzador MSM (Apollo III) is out at the Region 2 schooling shows pushing mid-60's to 70's at Training level.

I'm also reminded I need to do a lot of other things associated with the business (taxes, answering the mail, updating the website, making sure the truck still runs...) and playing catch-up. This first week back feels more like I'm attached to my cell phone more than anything else.

Flying in to Lexington was also a little surreal after leaving at the start of a horrid Winter. I was somewhat expecting to see a more decimated town from UK's Men's Basketball team's loss in the Final Four, and also from what looks like the flood-like rain the region has experienced. While there weren't any fires lighting the runway, we definitely have new lakes. It's also delightfully warm.

My first stop before I even went home was to look in on the pony.

To no surprise, she's fat, happy, shaggy and hard to catch. My first order was to make her look less of a wild pony and more civilized. Slowly and begrudgingly she's reemerging from the winter woolies and embedded dirt. She was ridden, washed and will probably do a lot of that until her new lessor takes over the reins.

I went up to see Flair and Haiku on Wednesday.

Haiku grew another hand and a half, and sports a strong topline and is swimming right along in her progress. Despite looking good, she needs some more calories due to the amount of growth she's experiencing. She's not thin, but honestly she just needs that much support. The Pennfields line has been helping her out tremendously in developing her growth while not creating a hot horse. The spring grass should also help her out. Her attitude is still the same, willing, straightforward, workmanlike. She's not even three, and she's just ahead in so many ways.

Flair arrived back in January after I left. Like many things with her and I we just keep missing each other. She arrived about 200lbs heavy from post-baby and in no shape whatsoever to do much of anything. So seeing her 200lbs lighter, under saddle, and developing with about 40 days under tack is really neat. It's a shame that February in Kentucky was a total loss and parts of March were even worse. Essentially, she is where Haiku was when she started. Give it three months of good work, and things will be fine. But still, there's a long way to go from nothing to our tentative goal of Devon's Five Year Old division is a big leap, but one that I'm really sure that she'll do well to progress towards.

On top of keeping up all the horses there's also catching up with the calendars. My business has started to expand to include teaching clinics around the US. I like to teach, and this allows me to keep up on the daily training of my horses and keeping a serious base of home clients. I will be out in VA in June and August. Plus a few other places as I start setting the calendar for the year.

Also per reader suggestion, I will talk more in depth about all the German breeding, riding, training and all the other things over the next few posts. I just couldn't type out as much on an iPad as I would like. But for now, I'm home.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Make it back home by Monday

My time in Germany is coming to a close, next Sunday I pack my bags and I catch a flight early Monday morning back to the states to begin my season there with my girls. It's crazy to think my first show is May, and my season's calendar is looking booked with shows and clinics. 

It's strange to imagine that the time has passed that quickly but in the end, it was very useful. I have few regrets here, I know I'll return next fall/winter before migrating to Florida. 

I'm sad but excited to go, the place has given me more perspective and tools about riding, teaching, selling and the business that I can't wait to incorporate into my own herd when I get home. But at the same time, I don't want to leave. The place is a second home. So, in a way, I, like everyone else who does this has a heart on each continent. 

It's also been busy here, the last two or three weeks have been nothing but sales calls. We sold five horses in two weeks, internationally, and with a few more pending as this week opened up with queries on two of the top young horses in the barn. I'm also excited to announce my partnership with my German breeders who starting in Fall 2015 will begin pushing horses to the states for me to sell into the American market. The first one being the full brother to one of my favorites, Fairyland, who's lovely personality and raw gaits look like a good match for America. 

The funny thing is I'm typically not a German horse fan. My exposure has been to mostly the U.S. with the Hanovarian and Oldenburg books, and my herd is primarily KWPN but there's good blood, a good program, and stellar movement here, so, quality is quality no matter how you register it. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

All alone she moves

One of the toughest things about what I do is being 4,000 miles away and ahead five hours.

By the time I'm going to bed, I'm getting updates from the U.S. and the rest of the world. Majority of the time it's great, it's students who are checking in or my barns giving me updates or my other calling me and asking me how my day went.

It's a voyeur lifestyle being able to look, but not actively participate in something very far away. My news is sometimes second hand. It also screws with you just a little bit.

Homesickness is a bi-product of the job. It's what everyone, regardless of industry, faces at some level when their ambition takes them beyond the familiar recesses of their current life to achieve something. 

I love traveling, and I've done it actively since I was 14. I'm used to going away for extended periods and miles. I'm used to long horse show weekends and training trips. I've learned to be lonely but at the same time, I'm lucky that 21st century technology and social media has allowed me to keep abreast without committing to hours on the phone. Plus being busy all day, everyday, leaves little room to think much about anything else but what's in front of me. 

So, by the end of the day, only three primary emotions really exist with me: exhaustion, hunger and because I'm honest, a twinge of jealousy. 

I'm not really a jealous person. But like what most people experience as they go through expansion, you go on it alone and you question everything. Everything from: did I that make that corner correctly to did I just tell my boss that stallion is a little schnitzel?

 You also ask the question why a lot. Why did I just leave my country to do this? Why did I leave steady income behind? Why do I have heartburn from that currywurst? The list goes on and on as you muddle through exhaustion and the other emotions du jour. 

You also romanticize your lifestyle at home (bed, TV, barn) and become somewhat jealous as friends, students, other pro's, even people you've barely met post photos and statuses belying their successes, their general satisfaction about their life or goings on or even the commiseration of just how utterly crappy the weather is. 

So while I can't commiserate on the weather (it's been seriously lovely), and I've become jealous at the early season successes of some while I'm here; I also find myself knowing a few things. 

First, that while ribbons and riding time is nice, I'm also here because for me. I have to be uncomfortable to progress. I have to make my mistakes and be put into situations where I know I'll make them. It's given me a sense of purpose to do more things and be a little hungry. 

And secondly, that Europe is the sport and standard of which we compete with within the discipline. Even though I'm not in Florida (the nearest moral equivalent) or at awards banquets collecting trophies, I know that what I'm doing here is having an impact on my career and business and I have to do it now. My mom always said, the circuit will be there when you return, and she's right. I'm putting together my schedule for teaching, showing and hosting and it seems like its going to be an active year. Coupled with a new venture starting in Europe, I'm starting to put the foot to the floor and go hard for the next six years. 

I genuinely love it here, I'm finding myself getting excited about going to the barn, but what I'm doing and seeing. I'm equally eager to put things in motion when I get back. So while I feel left behind, I know in the end I'm uncomfortably ahead. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Into paradise without day and night

The last few weeks have been a large blur of activity. Between working six to ten horses per day at various stages of training and development, Monday through Saturday, and various other things (stallion show, verband inspection, sales calls) that have been happening it makes for long, uncomplicated days of working. 

My day isn't too much to write about, it's get up, drink coffee, walk to the barn, start work, lunch, more coffee, work some more and then go home around 5pm to catch up on the U.S. news, catch up with my owners, horses, clients and other people six hours behind me. Between four of us we work close to 30 horses. 

All the horses are progressing pleasantly. I still have my favorites and there are a few new ones added as well. For the most part I work with the kids, my youngest are rising three this year and my oldest is pushing five, but the hall has everything from weanlings to some older school horses. 

The job, in short has provided a great window of young horses and breeding that's not available stateside. After you see six or seven of a particular sire or dam, you begin to understand what they produce and how to channel that energy and talent. You see them go in different situations, under different riders and methods. You also develop tastes and preferences alongside an eye of what to look for in each growth stage and how it relates to the pedigree. 

The system here in Germany has a somewhat familiar feeling. The thoroughbred industry has a similar mentality and most of the dressage in the states is based of the German system. It's traditional. 

How young horses are reared is very traditional. They're brought in from the field when they're two to begin work. They, like the thoroughbred industry, are relatively unhandled until that time and have lived in groups sorted by age and sex. They start in the traditional snaffle and roller with side reins, but they go on a modern surface and are conditioned in the aquatred. They're also exposed to fun things like umbrellas, tarps, plastic and things that they'll encounter over their careers. Even sales runs more towards traditional. With very little advertising and mostly word of mouth. The quality is that good. 

At home, my horses are fairing well in the bad weather. Sinari is looking a tad less rotund and Flair and Haiku are on as much ride time as the weather allows. Flair, being from Alberta, is at home in the weather; Haiku not so much. In either way I miss them, and while I have many here to distract me and keep me busy there's nothing like having your own. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bread and circuses

It's been about a week since I touched down back in Europe and I haven't stopped moving since. 

To say that I like it here is an understatement. It's one of the best things I've done for myself and my career to date. I miss my horses, cats and my significant other, but I feel at home here. It's a step forward in many places, and I've learned a lot even in a short time. 

The barn is lovely as it is modern with a candyland of horses to choose be around. 

I have my usual set of six, plus a few others that I get to rotate through if there's enough time. I get to coach a little, and in return I'm coached. The energy is positive, friendly but professional. We have a job to do, and we need to do it. All I work with is the young horses, I wanted this specifically for my own program since I've begun to reach into that market more and more. My oldest is five, with the youngest being two. My two favorites are the Ampere and sarkozy followed by the Don Index. They couldn't be more different. 

 I'm regretting that I just am doing three months. There's so much here to see and do. 

It's also incredibly satisfying to be around people with the same goals and mentality about the business. Horses are practical here, there's no shying away from the discussion of commission or even day-to-day issues. 

The barn is the same here and abroad, horses basic needs do not change from one country to the next. But the country, like every place,has its own cycle, its own way and pride for doing things. This is not Holland, the mentality is more traditional and in my opinion, much more correct. You see it in how the horses are treated and worked. While they are commodities, they are loved and treated as well as possible. Pedigrees run not only through equine generations but family generations, no matter where you turn you find a story or someone who stood or owned the horse that you've read about. 

If there's one benefit of being illiterate, is you listen and watch more than you would if you know the language. My German is pigeon at best with most phrases and sentences surrounding the barn and it's needs. My teacher is all of five, he's persistent despite my ineptitude. But immersion does wonderful thing for learning languages and making friends, and to be honest, kindness is universal. 

As the world turns at home, Flair is shipping down. Poor timing on my end but better late than never. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down

I go to yoga a few times per week.

We're not talking about the gentle yoga either, the type where you spent 20 minutes meditating and reflecting on life, then maybe get to a downward dog or twist while sipping tea du jour. 

I go to the Ashtanga type. A quick series flow that frowns on props in addition to making you groan for about an hour and makes you question your sanity of: 'why did I sign up for this torture?', and 'why can't I bend like that girl on the next mat'?

I started going last year at the suggestion of a client who actively goes herself (she's actually my accountabilabuddy for this). The teacher, probably upon seeing my hand-me-down mat from my mother, the barn shoes which I left outside, plus the non-lulu clothing with lumpy body with tight hips/shoulders in my first Ashtanga class probably thought I was a nutter who would quit after three sessions. 

I struggled through the primary series. I couldn't hold positions, I was out of alignment, couldn't get into peak poses, I needed blocks, bolsters, straps, mats, and a crane and/or forklift to keep it together for the first three months.

When I told the teacher what I do (I ride horses), alongside my goals (large scale stuff), she probably thought I was really off my rocker. 

It was my first time, in a long time, being a beginner, and being viewed as one- at anything. It sucked.   But unlike equestrian disciplines, there was no judging. Only understanding that you are going through a process and we all started somewhere. 

I survived that first class, and kept on coming back. I still leave my shoes outside and try to keep the lessons I learn on my mat in perspective as I teach and train. 

The surprising thing, among many things, I learned from yoga is the idea of deserving.

The idea that you deserve to be a better you is a very fleshed-out concept within the studio.

The idea of deserving something to me was not only taboo, but borderline selfish, rude and egotistical. Especially after being raised with the thought of give to others first, then yourself.  It was like getting the first slice of cake at a party or opening the door for someone else and getting to walk through it first. Deserving something was an earned luxury. It simply just didn't happen, and not to anyone under the age of 30.

Preparing to leave for three months, there's been a lot of fanfare surrounding the departure. Between teaching the last lessons, the breakfast/brunch/lunch/dinners, trying to get a calendar organized for when I get back, trying to keep healthy in sub zero temps, preparing and seeing horses off (then checking in when I can), there's the questions.

Everything from: What are you doing over there? to Is this a buying trip, are you going to buy something? to Why you?, Why are you even going? Can't you make your own opportunities here?, Why didn't [insert other professional's name] get this opportunity?, How did you get the connections to go? and my personal favorite: What does your significant other think about this?.

Aside from the obvious answers of no it's not an active buying trip, and frankly since we've gone through suffrage my other's opinion has very little bearing on my career path (he actually wanted to visit, but couldn't this time around).

But other questions are more complicated to respond to.

I can't answer why one person gets an opportunity or how each individual's connections develop on a broader scale. I'm sure there's a university study for that somewhere. However, what I can say, and have said, is that I've put in the equity to be able to do this, and while I don't know where or how I'll end up, I deserve the opportunity to expand.

Some people take it well, some people take it as an affront that I'm stepping out of their perception, or progressing past the point of who they are.

The point is this, we all deserve things, sometimes, you just have to have gumption enough to take them.